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Jury, Charles Rischbieth (1893–1958)

by Barbara Wall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Charles Rischbieth Jury (1893-1958), by unknown photographer, c1914

Charles Rischbieth Jury (1893-1958), by unknown photographer, c1914

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 44355

Charles Rischbieth Jury (1893-1958), poet and professor of English, was born on 13 September 1893 at Glenelg, Adelaide, eldest of five children of South Australian-born parents George Arthur Jury, merchant, and his second wife Elizabeth Susan, née Rischbieth. Charles was educated at Glenelg Grammar School and at the Collegiate School of St Peter (1909-13) where he was head prefect. His father arranged for Charles's first book of poems, Spring is Coming, to be published when the boy was 12 years old; his second publication, Perseus and Erythia, appeared in 1912. Next year he entered Magdalen College, Oxford (B.A. Hons, 1918; M.A., 1923). Commissioned temporary lieutenant (1914) in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, he was badly wounded at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915 and ended his service in March 1916. He lost numerous friends in the war and wrote this epitaph:

You who shall come, exalt these childless dead
To be your fathers, from whose life you are bred.
The dead beget you now: for now they give
Their hope of sons that you their sons may live.

Graduating from Oxford with a first in English language and literature, Jury returned to Adelaide. His father made him financially independent and he determined to devote his life to the writing of poetry. With (Sir) Edward Morgan and Vernon Knowles, he published Lamps and Vine Leaves (Melbourne, 1919); Jury's contribution contained early versions of some of his best poems. From 1919 to 1938 he lived mostly in Europe, but often came back to Australia. Love and the Virgins (1929), a poetic drama, was published in London. In 1932 he was tutor in English and senior resident at St Mark's College, Adelaide, and in 1933 relieving lecturer in English at the University of Adelaide. Much of his time was spent in Italy (especially at Taormina, Sicily) and in Greece, countries whose literature and landscape, together with the landscape of his own country, nourished his poetry.

Late in 1938 Jury settled into a flat at North Terrace, Adelaide. In 1939 he published Galahad, Selenemia and Poems, and in 1941 the first version of his poetic tragedy, Icarius, a courageous treatment of the 'dreadful and agonizing' subject of homosexuality. Enlisting in the Citizen Military Forces in May 1941 and commissioned next month, he performed intelligence duties at Loveday and in Brisbane before transferring to the Retired List in August 1945 as a captain. In 1946-49 he held the Jury chair of English language and literature (endowed by his mother in 1921 in memory of her husband) at the University of Adelaide. In his last years he wrote three verse plays—later published as The Sun in Servitude and Other Plays (Melbourne, 1961)—two of which had successful productions. He also composed a number of short poems, prepared definitive editions of Icarius (1955) and Love and the Virgins (1958), and wrote a treatise on quantity and quasi-quantity in English verse, Well Measur'd Song (Melbourne, 1968). His essays in the Saturday Advertiser in 1954-55 brought him to the notice of a wider public.

Jury had a genius for friendship and influenced Adelaide's cultural life by conveying his love of the arts in compelling fashion. His deep understanding of Shakespeare led him to become textual adviser for Colin Ballantyne's theatrical productions. Jury encouraged—often with financial aid—poets, playwrights, actors, scholars and teachers. He assisted Angry Penguins, both before and after the magazine's encounter with the law. He bought paintings, gave lectures and radio talks, and initiated poetry-reading circles. He taught more than one generation of South Australians to comprehend urbanity in mind and manners. His gentleness, courtesy, kindness and sense of humour made him loved; his self-awareness, reasonableness and toughness of mind made him respected, even revered. But it was as a poet that he wished to be remembered. His passionate love of Greek culture and the strength of his feeling for form and music in poetry made his strictly organized verse seem out of touch with the times. Yet it is rich, fine and powerful poetry, polished over many years.

Jury died of cancer on 22 August 1958 in his North Adelaide home and was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at £110,838. A limited edition of his selected poetry and prose, A Dweller on Delos, was published in 1993, the centenary of his birth. William Salmon's portrait of Jury is held by Elspeth Ballantyne in Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Wall and D. Muecke (eds), The Emperor's Doorkeeper (Adel, 1988)
  • B. Wall, 'Charles Rischbieth Jury: Poet of Adelaide', South Australiana, 5, no 2, Sept 1966, p 79
  • Adelaide Review, 118, Sept 1993, pp 3, 32
  • Jury papers (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

Barbara Wall, 'Jury, Charles Rischbieth (1893–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jury-charles-rischbieth-10653/text18931, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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